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most politely received, and he pressed on me coffee and pipes, but I pleaded the fair wind, and got away. It is said to have been founded by Ikhmim, great-grandson of Ham, grandson of Cush, and son of Misraim: here of old the magicians had their chief seat.
The proper Panopolis, the polite ecclesiastic told me, was near Soohajz, and does not agree fully with Wilkinson's account, who copies several inscriptions from it here.
The oppressive taxes of this town, I doubt not, are the secret of this wretchedness that seems so irreconcileable with the fertility of the country; the Pachas, here the cruel taskmasters, suck up every thing that is produced.
At the Arab town of Iboseir, we leave the last town of the ancient division of Middle Egypt, and enter the Thebaid. It was not far from here that two of my acquaintances from England had their boat capsized in a gale, and it sank. All their clothes and stores were lost or spoiled. They were invited by the Governor of Osiout to his house, where they remained till they refitted another boat and went up. The danger is great in a heavy wind, and the agitation of the Arabs ludicrous.
What fertility! Here the Nile has conquered the desert; and these little struggles of Osiris and Typhon you see all along up the Nile. How drew the old Egyptians their mythology from nature!
Tahta.—The fine wheat of the rich, open plain, is dwelt upon by all travellers. There are large coal-pits here, the coal being burned from the acacia; and we, being marketing in coal just now, put to the shore to purchase some. I found here an eminently trading people. They wished to sell me sheep, turkeys, geese, lambs, chickens, &c.; but we had laid in our mutton at Osiout, and pushed on to the village of Gau-elKebyr, or Great Gaw, to visit the ruins of the ancient Antaeopolis, which I examined more fully on my return.
Among the beautiful islands that abound in this fertile part of the Nile we wind, enchanted at the increasing purity of the air, rejoicing in the most perfect health, and thankful for the Creator's gifts that are so boundlessly scattered over these fertile plains. The wheat crops and all kinds of grain, beans, and peas, charm the eye and perfume the air. We had heard of the excellent bread of Millawi, and stopped for some.
Above Soohajz we passed Menshieh or Moonshieh, which has a Coptic church, convent, walls, and fine groves— the site of "Ptolemais Hermes," or the Hermes of the Ptolemies. A quay only remains. Its fine wheat and bread are famous. Here we enter the Said, and are rejoiced at the dryness of the climate, the clearness of the atmosphere, and charming beauties of this smiling land. The Romans, in the times of the Emperors, sent their invalids here for health; and no wonder, for in all the world there is scarce more congeniality of the atmosphere. Here no exciting volcanic air, as in the baths of Baiae in Campania, gives unnatural fire to the blood, but the dry, clear atmosphere gives you that unconsciousness of being aught else, than a creature made to thank God for his gifts.
In the morning, at sunrise, I left my boat and started for a walk to the mountains. Passing through a plain rich in all kinds of grain, I kept on up the river. I walked through numberless Bedouin encampments, with flocks and herds; but, strange to say, I could buy neither milk, eggs, nor bread, which was usually my excuse for a chat.
The incidents with my reis and crew would form a book of themselves. We started well, and for four days it was all happiness. The first difficulty was, their refusing to drag with a slight head wind. I rose and stormed in English and French, which latter my dragoman alone understood, and made them leap out of the boat and obey me. At Benisooef, my friend the Frenchman Castellan, by his lectures to them when he visited me, and by threatening to inform all the Hakim Pachas up the river by letter that I was on my way, and if I was not there at the proper time, to have them punished—and a few other influences—carried us swimmingly up to Luxor, although we had a head wind nearly all the time. I never struck one of them a blow; though twice, to frighten them, I levelled my pistol at the heads of one or two of them, and used to practise putting a ball through an orange, and always pretended to have a most violent temper, which really made them afraid that, in a fit of passion, I would shoot one of them. The fear that one has in starting alone from a town in the extreme part of the Nile, entirely at their mercy, soon wore off, and I was soon as much at home with them as in my father's house. It was ever "backsheesh" at night, when the boat stopped; whenever my dragoman went ashore; and I always gave them a little. An occasional glass of wine to the reis and steersman, a little brandy to them all, cigars almost daily, for I had five or six boxes not fit to smoke, always conciliated them. Sometimes I would order coffee to all around; and sometimes, when they were out of bread, I gave them all my own store rather than have them stop. It required a great deal of management, which was constant occupation and amusement. After five or six days, they were down on me for a harouf, or mutton, and the promise of a sheep at Osiout quieted them: now I would give them one or two turkeys, and nothing would give me more pleasure than "Howaga thayeeb."
I found out my dragoman early and drew the purse strings upon him, giving him only a hundred piastres—one pound at a time. The prospect of getting the job of being my dragoman through Syria, kept him from violence and too open fraud. He had no influence with the crew, and all the storming I was forced to do myself; and he was only fit to set my table, and lie down and tell me stories about Damascus, and Aleppo, and Bagdad. He was harmless generally and sometimes provoking. I once threatened to pitch him into the Nile, and once came very near thrashing him. In my excursions I used to have one of the Arabs for a companion, with whom I could talk by this time very well, or my Syrian Turk Bokra, who was a tall man, and had he been dragoman, and the other the cook, I should have much preferred it. At most of the towns up the river where the boat lay, there was usually a guard, who was paid. At Luxor, while absent one night on an excursion, some of my best clothing was stolen. The next morning I refused to pay the guard, who had done his business so badly. I finally flung him a piastre, and he joined my dragoman in some words in Arabic, which were not very complimentary. These little affairs were but momentary, and only relieved the monotony that I began to feel.
Girgeh.—How prettily this town looks. Its tall minarets; its houses with pigeon tops, a species of architecture which strikes you a few villages below. Its thick grove behind, was beautiful; it was formerly the capital of Upper Egypt, and a very large town. There is a governor here; thousands of Turks strutting through the town; and some important-looking dignitaries, Greek Albanians. The stores have the best articles of Upper Egypt exposed for sale. Here we saw the boat of a rich Turk and his gayly-dressed wife. The women here are good-looking, and their heads ornamented with coins; numbers of soldiers are to be seen in the streets.
We left Girgeh for a ride to Abydos. Girgeh was named after St. George, patron saint of the Egyptians, who is also the watchword of England, and the legend was obtained by one of her knights at Bibbeh, below Benisooef, where his memory is transformed into that of a Moslem saint, and honors are paid as such to his memory—dragon and all.